FROM THE STANDS: Big 12 Bowls

Let’s talk some recruiting, shall we? We shall.

The Longhorns had a roller coaster day on Monday when they missed one, lost one and got one. They missed on Darrin Kirkland, a 4-star (per Rivals) linebacker from Indianapolis. The 6-foot-1, 233-pounder took an official visit to Texas last week and immediately shut down his recruitment after arriving home. Lots of burnt orange took that as a good sign, but in reality the visit to Austin only solidified his love for the other UT, the Tennessee Volunteers. He committed on Monday afternoon. Soon after, Texas suffered a massive blow when 4-star offensive lineman Toby Weathersby decommitted from Texas. This has been on the table for a while and while it stinks, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Things took a turn for the better later in the evening as Texas got former Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry to commit. The 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker from Lakeland, Florida has been all in for Texas for weeks now, but had said he would wait until signing day to commit. On Monday, he said that he was “bringing a whole bunch of Florida boys” with him. Let’s talk about Monday and what it all means.

The Darrin Kirkland news isn’t really news. He had a nice visit to Texas, but in the end he already knew where he wanted to go, and I don’t think most people paying attention really expected him to come to Texas.  The Horns got in late with Kirkland and in the end they couldn’t make up enough ground on Tennessee. It would have been nice to get him, but it was a long shot at best.

Not at all a long shot: Cecil Cherry. He’s almost identical in size to Darrin Kirkland and on the field he’s a beast. He’s a physical inside linebacker that will come in and compete right away for playing time at middle linebacker in place of the soon-to-be-departed Steve Edmond. Dalton Santos, take these bowl practices seriously if you plan to be the starting mike next year, because Cherry wants that job and has immediate plans to take it. Off the field it was a dynamite move by Cecil Cherry. The program suffered a big blow when Weathersby decommitted and something good needed to happen. Cherry gave up his public moment on stage, where he would have likely committed in front of the media on signing day, to counter the Weathersby news. He’ll never have another moment like that, yet he decided to put the health of the program above his personal announcement, and that’s huge. Recruiting momentum at times can be like the stock market, where perception affects reality. The perception of Texas took a hit with Weathersby decommitting, and Cecil Cherry stepped up and did his best to change it back.

I don’t really have an answer as to why Toby Weathersby decided not to come to Austin. As a big-time offensive lineman he’s the sort of player you build around, and, with Joe Wickline coaching him, he could have been a monster. He’s likely headed to the SEC (Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU are the contenders). Those are schools with a great recent history of getting offensive linemen into the NFL, and the lure of that is very, very strong. Texas has a huge offensive line class coming in and the loss of one guy certainly won’t change the face of the program, but it stings to lose a 4-star player that has been committed for nearly nine months. But it happened, and you move on. It’s a big decision for an 18-year old to choose a school to play for. There’s pressure from family, friends, fans, boosters, coaches, teammates … And sometimes they commit for the wrong reasons, or the wrong people, or simply change their mind after thinking about it. I don’t know how much of that applies to Weathersby, but at least some of it did. Barry Switzer had a great line about recruiting back in the day, where he would tell a player on the fence about coming to ou, “Son, if you come to play for us, we are going to compete for a national championship. If you go play for someone else, we are still going to compete for a national championship.” It’s perfectly said. Time to move on and find the guys that want to be here.

So who does want to be here? Mesquite Poteet superstar linebacker Malik Jefferson? We will see Friday (that’s when he plans to commit). He’s a big Aggie lean, so we’ll see. Deandre McNeil? He’s Jefferson’s teammate at Poteet and the two want to play together in college. Chris Warren? Soso Jamabo? Holton Hill? Kris Boyd? Lots of big names out there and Texas could use every single one of them. Lots of big names already in the fold, too: Zack Gentry, Mr. Cherry, Kirk Johnson, John Burt, Patrick Vahe. But remember, kids change their minds. After all, they are still kids. It’s likely we lose a few more, but kids committed elsewhere will likely do the same thing, opening the door for Texas. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

I’ll have updates on all of it as it goes down.

Bowl Practices

The great thing about bowl games is all the extra practices you get. Each team is allowed 15 additional practices for their bowl game, but none use them all on bowl game preparation. Normally about a week’s worth are used for game preparation as coaches like to keep their week-to-week routine from the season in place. The other 8-10, depending on the team, are used as a mini spring training. As the established starters take some time to heal, younger players and backups get the bulk of the work in those practices. This is where Texas is right now, in the middle of those spring-like practices.

I assume that Jerrod Heard is getting a lot of work right now and a lot of instruction from Shawn Watson.  There might be tweaks to the offense that fit Heard better, like more of a spread attack, and Watson is putting him through the paces with different looks on defense. I assume Duke Catalon is getting lots of carries at tailback in preparation for spring, where he’ll jump into the mix with Jonathan Gray and D’Onta Foreman. I assume a ton of o-linemen are shuffling here and there to see who fits where and who excels. All those young wide outs are getting time with Heard as well. Same goes for the defense, where guys are looking to show a spark heading into the spring. These practices aren’t public and usually don’t get much coverage, but they are vital to give the guys preparing to take over in the spring a head start in their development.

Next week Texas will get down to the business of preparing for Arkansas, and next we will break down the game. This week let’s take a look at the Big 12. First, the ticket information again for you:


Advocare 2014 Texas Bowl

TEXAS vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

Monday, December 29th

NRG Stadium (Houston)

8 PM

ESPN

– Seats start as low as $35

– A limited number of suites remain- call 832/667-2160 to secure yours

– 62,000 seats have already been sold, don’t wait- 832/667-2390

– Buy them online now.

– For more details on the game click here.

– For more details on tickets click here.

I’ll see you in Houston!


Big 12 Bowl Games

I’m all in for the Big 12 teams in the bowl games. Seriously, I’m for all of them. Even the one in Norman. Let’s do this:


Liberty Bowl — Memphis- 12/29

WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)   1 pm   ESPN
This one the bowl committee got right. The Neers struggle to stop the run and the Aggies struggle to run, as in they choose not to. They are idiots if they don’t line up and try to shove it down West Virginia’s throat … but they are Aggies. Clint Trickett is going to shred this bad, coachless defense, so A&M will need to outscore them to win. They won’t be able to, because I hate them. Watch that defense on Monday, Malik.


Russell Athletic Bowl — Orlando- 12/29

oklahoma (8-4) vs. No.16 Clemson Tigers (9-3)   4:30 pm   ESPN
Did you know that Clemson has the No.1 rated defense in the country? Me, neither. And you know who their defensive coordinator is, don’t you? Brent Venables. I expect he’ll have the Tigers ready to go for his former boss. Uphill battle for ou, who will likely play Trevor Knight. I am rooting for you, sooners … Ick, I need a shower. I think Clemson will shut ou down on offense and do enough with the ball to win this. That’s crack oklahoma football analysis, folks.


Texas Bowl — Houston- 12/29

TEXAS (6-6) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6)   8 pm   ESPN
We will get to this next week.


Peach Bowl — Atlanta- 12/31

No.6 TCU (11-1) vs. No.9 Ole Miss (9-3)   11:30 am   ESPN
Calling my shot here: TCU wins this by a least a touchdown. I don’t trust Bo Wallace at all and I think the TCU defense is going to confuse him and chase him into turnovers. I don’t expect TCU to score 40 points unless they get them from Wallace, but they are going to get into the high 20’s/low 30’s, and I don’t see Ole Miss getting more than 20. Southwest Purple rolls.


Cotton Bowl — Arlington- 01/01

No.5 BAYLOR (11-1) vs. No.8 Michigan State (10-2)   11:30 am   ESPN
I am very interested in this game. Last year in the Fiesta Bowl, Central Florida did a great job of controlling the Bears’ offense. Now a much better, more defensive-minded team comes in. Sparty is big, physical and well-prepared and with a month to watch film and study trends, I think they are going to slow Baylor to a crawl. With their OC off to Tulsa as the new head coach, Art Briles will likely be much more hands on for this game. If I am Briles, and I going as up-tempo as I can to try and gas Michigan State, who withered under the offensive storm of Oregon early in the year. But that never seems to work in bowl games. The next time a high-octane, spread attack works in a big bowl game will be the first, and this won’t be the first. I think Michigan State knocks Baylor around some and wins an ugly one. I want to be wrong, Baylor.


Alamo Bowl — San Antonio- 01/02

No.11 KANSAS STATE (9-3) vs. No.14 UCLA (9-3)   5:45 pm   ESPN
K-State will have 30,000 purple-clad fans invading the River Walk and hotels in San Antonio. They will be excited for this game. I don’t know about UCLA. They were supposed to be title contenders when the season started, and now they are in the Alamo Bowl. Will they travel? What about the team? Are the fired up, or checked out? I think Kansas State will be fired up, and they are going to contain Brett Hundley. Tyler Lockett, in his final collegiate game, will go off. Kansas State doesn’t blow them out, but they win it going away.


Cactus Bowl — Tempe- 01/02

OKLAHOMA STATE (6-6) vs. Washington Huskies (8-5)   9:15 pm   ESPN
All the momentum from the monster Bedlam win is gone with Tyreek Hill’s domestic violence arrest that led to his dismissal. They seemed like they were on life support before he returned that punt for a touchdown to force overtime, and now their one playmaker is not even on the team anymore. Chris Peterson is a bowl game guru, finding ways to outsmart opponents (remember this?) and it sure seems like Oklahoma State is just happy to be there. But I am all in on the Big 12, so Oklahoma State wins! (Spoiler alert — they don’t actually win.)
Back next week with some the Texas/Arkansas break down

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